“The climate debate alone is not enough”

The loss of biodiversity and natural habitats is seen as a twin crisis to climate change. Has this arrived in the economy?

A clear no. The climate crisis is much better scientifically researched. You can already see it in the number of scientific publications on the subject of biodiversity. Compared to climate protection publications, it is less than ten percent. So there is a lot of catching up to do when it comes to biodiversity.

Why is that?

Despite its complexity, the climate crisis can be captured by two indicators: CO2 -Emission and temperature rise. When it comes to biodiversity, it’s more difficult. We have to look at diverse ecosystems with millions of plants and animals. The causal relationships for species extinction are very complex. If a certain animal species is extinct, we don’t know what the consequences will be.

Economists are used to complex challenges. What contributions can they make to addressing the issue of biodiversity loss?

Similar to the climate change the question arises as to how external ecological effects can be internalised. How can we make the costs visible that are caused by the use and, unfortunately, overuse of the environment? So it’s about pricing biodiversity loss. A demanding task. I think we can only find answers together with the natural sciences.

In its latest report on the values ​​of nature, the World Biodiversity Council criticizes economic evaluation criteria. A more holistic approach, less focused on gross domestic product, is required. So aren’t contributions from economists really welcome?

I perceive this very differently in conversations with scientists. I see a very strong interest in economic issues and in company processes that have an impact on biodiversity. And as far as GDP is concerned: In economics, too, we have been discussing for a long time how qualitative assessments, such as ecological and social aspects, can be included. The natural sciences provide us with new, important impetus for this debate, but also for other economic questions. What particularly impressed me were the reports from the natural scientists about the close connection between biodiversity and the pandemic.

Joerg Rocholl

Joerg Rocholl

Image: ESMT

Would you please explain that in more detail.

There is a triangular relationship between climate change, ecosystem intervention and pandemics. Ecosystems are damaged by climate change and can then no longer function as well as a climate buffer. But biodiversity is also of crucial importance for the outbreak of pandemics, as I have learned from the natural scientists. In connection with Corona, this was sometimes addressed. But the interaction between biodiversity and pandemic events is also of enormous economic importance. In my opinion, this has not been given sufficient attention so far.

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